The W'adrhŭn

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The first recorded mention of the W’adrhŭn is a canto of the saga of Charles Armatellum that speaks of his peace treaty with the primitive tribes beyond the Claustrine Mountains. For centuries, the tales of nomadic savages with giant, pre-dominion beasts that dwell beyond the edges of civilization have been a source of entertainment, delight and lazy, abstract deliberations amongst self-titled scholars and historians. The truth lies so far from these theories and witticisms as the wastelands and oases of the W’adrhŭn lie from the luxurious foyers these discussions are usually held in.

It is perhaps understandable why the learned of humanity would be so dismissive in their views of this young race. The W’adrhŭn are indeed a fledgling civilization, one that was forced to scrap a living off the limited resources available in the Wastelands beyond the Claustrine mountains. This lack of resources has forced them into a harsh living, often violent as different Tribes clash for sources of food or water, with equipment and attires that look near-primitive in the eyes of the civilized Kingdoms. Such abstract descriptions are vaguely known by the learned elite. It is also known to them that the W’adrhŭn are “just another” creation of the Spires, therefore they are conceived much like the witless drones the Exiles throw on the field of war to die at their masters’ convenience or the terrifying but mindless abominations they have unleashed upon the world. But unlike prior attempts and creations, the W’adrhŭn were never meant to supplement their retinue of monsters, killers or expendable troops. They were meant to be a race of true warriors, an unstoppable vanguard force capable of securing the Reclamation of the Exile homeland or ensure the Directorate’s dominance on Eä once this mission was accomplished.

To create the W’adrhŭn, rather than work on the basis of Exile strands, the Biomancers of the Spires sought to decipher the weaves of countless donor species that presented the desired characteristics in order to replicate their features on a completely new and hybridized structure. While series upon series of creations proved failures, unable to “quicken” into awareness, one day, for no understandable reason, no discernable metric, the bodies of two breeding pairs woke within minutes of each other, their physical capacity far exceeding original expectations. Some would later attribute the outcome to the strands of humanity weaved into their design. Others would speculate that the regenerative abilities of echinoderms or reptiles were responsible; such strands had been mixed in the many different attempts to urge quickening with insufficient research about the possible mutations they could trigger. Others still would attribute the awakening of the Four to the powerful – perhaps too powerful – primeval essences infused into the final design; a dangerous experiment that many had cautioned against only to be overruled. Whatever the reason, these four prime specimens awakened and looked upon their creators with hungry, knowing eyes…

The alarm this raised among the Spires forced the project to be revisited time and time again, while the four primes were kept in stasis. When the Exiles finally unleashed the W’adrhŭn on the world, their designs were not entirely finished. Forced by the threat of Dweghom Marches, the chaos of the time of the Fall and the terror inspired by the utter destruction of a Spire, their creators marshaled their population against their foes. Victory was not their purpose; in typical Spire fashion, the W’adrhŭn were to be sacrificed so that the population of the Spires and their research might escape. Even if many regretted the outcome, the destruction of the primes at the hands of the Dweghom was seen as an acceptable loss. Indeed, three of the primes – under the monikers of Famine, War and Death – perished. But their sacrifice allowed the fourth prime, Conquest, to secure a future for her people. The W’adrhŭn endured, escaping the Dweghom and even managed to endure the Fall and the Long Winter in the Wastelands of the Old Dominion. Sheltered by the broken Spires that once gave them life, the fledgling race would learn to survive, battle Spire creations, tame the prehistoric beasts hidden in the bowels of the Spires and, most importantly, forge their own sophisticated civilization.

Given their unique origin and purpose, however, it should come as small surprise that the W’adrhŭn are tough. Your average W’adrhŭn towers over a human, with an average height of 7ft (2m). Their bone density far surpasses that of humans, with bones extruding from the shin and forearm providing significant protection even for an unarmored W’adrhŭn along these vulnerable limbs. Their rib cage has fused into a solid mass encasing their vital organs while their skin is tough and leathery with keratin deposits along the abdominal region to protect this vulnerable area. They are heavily muscled, with tone and elasticity of the meanest W’adrhŭn approaching human maxima.

The designs of the Spires and the multiple experimental strands forged to achieve their creation survives within every W’adrhŭn, making the race highly variable. The Warbred are the main example: Towering over their brethren, Warbred are bigger, stronger, and tougher than their brethren, throwbacks to the earlier generations of W’adrhŭn the Spires had sought to breed. Complications during childbirth leading to unacceptable attrition among breeding females led to the scrapping of this design, but clearly their efforts were not entirely successful. Today the Warbred labor under a pall of mistrust and segregation, as their birth almost always claims the life of the mother, stigmatizing them for life given the almost religious regard W’adrhŭn have for their womenfolk. As a result most Warbred join the cult of War, seeking solace in the perfection of the craft they were created for.

All W’adrhŭn, in part thanks to the acute sense of hearing they possess, have a natural facility with the beasts that roam their lands. The Speakers, while less obvious that the Warbred, represent another unique variant of the W’adrhŭn race with much deeper social and developmental consequences. Speakers do not rely on empathy and a deeper understanding of the mind of their companions, but are capable of communicating with them directly. The origins of this power are shrouded in speculation, but it is quite clear that, like the gift of sorcery, it was one unintended by their creators. Speakers today are invaluable to a growing W’adrhŭn society and population, their companions serving as beasts of burden, aiding in construction and defense of growing W’adrhŭn habitats and their burgeoning populations. Their value has been quickly recognized in many growing tribes, the eldest speakers of whom have been given a seat at the tribal councils, which until recently were dominated by the warriors and the mothers.

However by far the most remarkable feature the W’adrhŭn possess is their hearing. Unlike humans, Exiles or any other humanoid, their hearing physiology is not limited to their ear structure. Additional structures along their jaw and nasal cavity provide them with a hearing prowess that far exceeds human or even Exile norms. They are capable of navigating in pitch darkness, based merely on the echoes and sounds they perceive. A curious development is that W’adrhŭn are capable of control the sensitivity of their hearing, allowing them to focus on one source or frequency to the exclusion of all others, a necessary trait to prevent their sensitivity from overwhelming them. This allows them to communicate across great distances through the use of pitched voices or vast drums. This is the source of the W’adrhŭn uncanny coordination, their ability to communicate in a manner completely beyond human capability to replicate. This also grants them a tremendous advantage on the battlefield, where W’adrhŭn leadership can remain in communication over the din of battle without resorting to messengers. Their hearing is also an integral component of the feared blood trance; the meditative trance that grants Blood Berserkers their situational hyperawareness allowing them to reach unheard of levels of coordination on the battlefield.

However it must be noted that these adaptations come with a price. W’adrhŭn consume prodigious amounts of food to support their unique physiology. To address this, their designers modified the W’adrhŭn digestive track, allowing them to digest food that would sicken or possibly kill a human but this alone is not enough and this was known; their merciless digestive systems were designed to survive with cheap, otherwise unwanted materials – while their demanding appetites would ensure population control if needed. Coupled with the limited resources of the Wastelands, this commanding need would forge the very culture and civilization of the fledgling race.

In the end, the W’adrhŭn represent the first truly collaborative efforts between the Spires – in itself, that is a testament to their design and their capability to perform the role they were intended to. They are not a race of mass-produced, bloodthirsty fighters with overgrown muscles. They are beings designed to wage war; to fight, overcome obstacles, survive and perform under extreme circumstances, with the mindset, senses, physique and endurance to match. They are also not mindless savages that by some accident of fate managed to survive the Fall. They were designed to think, calculate, form strategies and adapt to those of their opponents with cunning, guile, creative solutions and true intelligence. They managed not simply to overcome the fatal dangers of the Wastelands during and after the Fall, but thrive and form a civilization from scratch which, while young and perhaps rough, is complex, inventive, values music and has perfectly adapted to their surroundings and circumstances, enduring for centuries where no man has dared to even attempt to settle. The humans that so readily dismiss the W’adrhŭn as savages have only to look to their own past to see just how great the potential of this young race’s destiny is… and how well equipped it is to meet it.